Social Media

China Reportedly Using Social Media Sites to Find and Silence People Speaking about Coronavirus

China Reportedly Using Social Media Sites to Find and Silence People Speaking about Coronavirus

Much of China is currently in turmoil amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak. Now, many citizens across the nation and abroad have started speaking out against the government's way of handling the situation, and are reportedly being silenced.

The government is using social media platforms such as Twitter and WeChat to supposedly find out who is saying what about the coronavirus and the nation's response to it.

Vice first reported the incidents.

Regulating protest and dissent in China

China is well known for regulating what is said against the government. Hearing that it is apparently once again looking to silence its citizens' opinions comes as little surprise.

As the coronavirus outbreak rages on, it has now become a question of dissent in the nation. Online protests have sparked up, especially following whistleblower Li Wenliang's untimely death. Many comments regarding his death have been removed from online platforms.

It’s 5 am in China right now, but many people did not sleep tonight — hashtag “I want freedom of speech” started to trend on Weibo from 1 am and now has nearly 2 million views. pic.twitter.com/CA6lqy4ey2

— Muyi Xiao (@muyixiao) February 6, 2020

Following Li's death the hashtag "I want freedom of speech" spread across the Chinese social media site Weibo, and in a matter of hours, it amassed over two million posts. All of which were removed by the next day, according to NPR.

As per Vice's reporting, the crackdown is now trickling down to individuals who speak up about the coronavirus — even through private messages to friends and family. Clearly, the nation is keeping a close eye on its citizens across the world.

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One such instance is a man from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, who went on holiday in mid-January to California. This man, according to Vice, was messaging his family members and friends through WeChat informing them of what international news outlets were saying about the coronavirus — information that China was not sharing nationally.

During the #COVID19 outbreak, China’s authorities are ramping up the censorship machine, but Chinese citizens are fighting back. We at @nytimes talked to them about how they utilize platforms outside the GFW to archive and spread critical information:https://t.co/KP7UeQXWXXpic.twitter.com/iNUlTz5M0d

— Muyi Xiao (@muyixiao) February 23, 2020

The man believes that his friends had been coerced by Chinese officials to ask him of his exact whereabouts in the U.S., as well as receiving a warning that someone in Shanghai was attempting to access his WeChat account. All a bit fishy.

Another man, who lives in Dongguan province in the south of China, said that officials visited him at home after he posted a tweet via a VPN (as Twitter is banned in China) that was critical of the Chinese government's handling of the virus spread.

The officials supposedly told him that his post was an attack on the Chinese government, confiscated his phone, and forced him to sign a document that stated he would not repeat this "threat," reported Vice.

Chinese citizens are fighting & dodging censorship on a daily basis, but experts say this time the scale of digital resistance is unprecedented:https://t.co/KP7UeQXWXXpic.twitter.com/7e4xipuPyy

— Muyi Xiao (@muyixiao) February 23, 2020


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